Business, Finance & Law How to Speak Money by John Lanchester | Book Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on September 11th, 2014


How to Speak Money by John Lanchester

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Blurb: Money is our global language. Yet so few of us can speak it. The language of the economic elites can be complex, jargon-filled and completely baffling. And we need to understand it because if we can’t, then the elites will write their own rules. Now John Lanchester, bestselling author of Capital and Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay, sets out to decode it for all of us, explaining everything from high-frequency trading and the World Bank to the difference between bullshit and nonsense. As funny as it is devastating, How To Speak Money is a primer and a polemic. It’s a reference book you’ll find yourself reading in one sitting. And it gives you everything you need to demystify the world of high fiannce – the world that dominates how we all live now.

(Faber, 2014)

Jonathan Derbyshire interviews John Lanchester | Prospect

Read an extract from How to Speak Money | Telegraph

Melanie Reid, The Times 

“Hugely enjoyable… [A] vivid, irreverent crammer containing everything anyone who ever skipped the business pages should know… Once you’ve grasped the basics, the knowledge makes you feel rather excited and empowered.”

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Tim Adams, The Observer 

“Sandwiched between enjoyably baggy state-of-the-global-economy essays that take in everything from the (successful and underreported) pursuit of Millennium Development Goals to the digital contraction of the newspaper and publishing industries, he offers a compulsive gloss on an A-Z of financial terms, with a paragraph or three in explanation of each. Everything from “mortgage” (“Literally ‘dead pledge’, and if it were called that maybe more people would think twice about getting one…”) to more arcane terms like the “Laffer Curve” and the “Vix Index”, is subjected to his Johnsonian attention and wit.”

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Larry Elliott, The Guardian 

How to Speak Money is a more difficult book [than Whoops! and Capital] to pull off, because in essence it’s a long and specialised list. But it works – for three reasons. First, Lanchester is a fine writer. His prose is clear and precise, and that helps a lot when the subject matter is challenging. Second, he peps up the list with humour… Third, he gets the balance right: the book is neither too technical nor too patronising. He provides a long introduction of more than 60 pages explaining why the language of money matters, and a shorter afterword in which he explores how we can put all this newfound knowledge to good use.”

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Ian Critchley, The Sunday Times 

“[An] insightful and often funny book… He contends that, in the main, the apparent obscurity arises not out of a desire to confuse lay people, but out of the fact that the principles underlying finance are often extremely complex. Once those principles are understood “the world does start to look different”… [An] invaluable primer”

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Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times 

“…for all the humour, fun facts and lucid explanations, I still fear that this book will not meet its stated aim – which is to make the Financial Times understood by all (a little hurtful to those of us who write it, but I take his point). Instead, How to Speak Money will delight people who already understand the FT. But those who don’t may open it at random, find “p/e ratio” nestling against the “Prudential Regulation Authority”, feel that familiar wall of fear and boredom descending, and close it again, sharpish.”

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Ben Chu, The Independent 

“John Lanchester’s How to Speak Money feels like it was conceived as a “loo read”… I’m not sure what the reader gains from learning that Lanchester once met the rogue trader Nick Leeson on Newsnight and “liked him”. The book also feels rather casual at points… Lanchester is right to say the general public need to understand money and finance better. But it will take a rather more exact book than this to close those troubling knowledge gaps.”

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